If you’ve been reading my blog with any sort of regularity during 2010, then you would know about my Literary Devotionals. Every Tuesday, I would bring you some nugget of literary knowledge, straight from the pages (and yes, I used attribution) of The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder and Noah Oppenheim. Tuesdays were, of course, devoted to Literature in The Intellectual Devotional, so as it was a regular part of my daily routine, I figured it should be so on Paperback Fool as well.
I learned a lot of things—literary and otherwise—in 2010 from The Intellectual Devotional. I learned about the ozone layer, Giuseppe Verdi, Otto von Bismark, Fyoder Dostoyevsky and Venus de Milo. There are explanations of induction in philosophy, and did you know that the world’s oldest monotheistic religion is called Zoroastrianism (I know, sounds like something from a sci-fi novel)?
The subtitle for The Intellectual Devotional reads: “Revive your mind, complete your education and roam confidently with the cultured class.” As might be expected, there is a decent amount of sly winking and tongue in cheek in that statement, as well as in the entire idea of a book called The Intellectual Devotional. A secular play off religious devotionals, which bring a daily dose of comfort to the devout, an intellectual devotional brings a self-satisfied, daily reminder of how brilliant you are. “Roam confidently with the cultured class” is another way of saying “appear mildly interesting at fancy cocktail parities.”
That being said, I do think The Intellectual Devotional is a valuable book. Of course, it shouldn’t be a replacement for education or real knowledge. It shouldn’t even “complete your education,” as the subtitle claims. What a book like Oppenheim and Kidder’s has the possibility of doing is serve as the springboard for deeper exploration into subjects that pique your interest. While I enjoyed reading the snapshots of my favorite authors and a brief analysis of their novels and poems, I was squirreling away each name/title for when I had time to read their real work. The same goes for the other subjects as well: I’ve always wanted to read more history, and learn more about science and art. Reading the daily entries in The Intellectual Devotional provided just the teaser I needed to look for more.
To explain a bit further, the Intellectual Devotional provides a daily passage in one of seven subjects: history, literature, visual arts, science, music, philosophy and religion. Each day of the week is devoted to one subject, guaranteeing a regular run-down of every conceivable topic one might need to know to be “cultured.” As the introduction reads:
These readings offer the kind of regular exercise the brain requires to stay fresh, especially as we age. They represent an escape from the day-to-day grind into the rarefied realm of human wisdom. And, they will open new horizons of intellectual discovery.
Though I fell behind more than a few times (OK, I fell behind a lot), I loved waking up every day, sitting down to my computer, checking my email and then learning something new. Maybe it’s because I’m a total nerd, but I love the simple act of exploring new knowledge on a daily basis. It gave me something to look forward to; it gave me a reprieve from the everyday; my new knowledge left me feeling fulfilled and slightly smarter. I can’t say I absorbed everything from The Intellectual Devotional verbatim, but I feel that I’m now able to recognize such facts, dates and figures Kidder and Oppenheim discuss, and perhaps speak to them in a slightly more educated manner.
I thought about ordering another in the Intellectual Devotional series, specifically the Modern Culture edition. However, it’s already Jan. 10, so unless I happen upon it in a bookstore, I doubt I’ll be making any online purchases. I’ll miss the role it played in my daily routine, as well as the educational presence on this blog. However, there’s no rule that says you have to start the book on Jan. 1. It merely counts the days in the week, so those 365 entries could begin and end anywhere during the year. If you’re looking for something to shake up your brain, I say give a book like The Intellectual Devotional a try. It’s easy, satisfying and the best part? There’s no tuition required to feel like you’ve spent the better part of 10 years browsing a college library.